When my professor suggested taking an internship...an unpaid internship...I was a little uneasy. I, like many, have worked since I was 14-years-old. My routine every day was school, and then work and I liked it that way. I made good money, could pay my bills, and still buy the things I wanted. Taking the internship was hard for me, but I saved up money and (yes) had my parents' help.
Now, if you know me I don't half-ass anything. So, I applied for a bunch of internships but really only wanted one. Rep. Debbie Dingell (and the Dingell name) has always been a very public figure where I live. She and Mr. Dingell do amazing things for this country, things that I 100% believed in, so I wanted to work for her.
I turned down countless other internships but continued to hold out for Mrs. Dingell's internship and I'm so glad I did because I learned things a classroom couldn't teach. No sorority or club or job could give me everything I got from working for the Congresswoman.
Obviously, I learned office skills, scheduling skills, people skills, and all that boring "adult" stuff. But, I learned that I had always known exactly where I wanted to be. My gut instincts were (more likely than not) always right. I belonged in my major. I belonged exactly where I was.
Taking constituent calls, writing letters, reading letters...it all taught me that real change does happen when good people are in power. The problem we continue to face is that bad people get ahold of power, and keep good people from getting it back. I want to do all of it. I want to be a good person holding power and empowering others just like my bosses do.
In my internship class, many of the students (many of which were much older than I) hated their internships. They grouched about low to no pay, shitty people, and realizing that they weren't at all passionate about what they had chosen.
An internship is what you make it. If you aren't pressing people for work and projects or trying to get to know your superiors, you aren't going to get ANYTHING out of an internship. Not choosing a mentor or giving your supervisor goals for yourself is a huge mistake and a waste of an internship.
So if you do take that step...save up money, budget, and plan to give that internship your all. Make goals for yourself personally, educationally, and professionally. Come into work wanting to do the best at your job, for yourself, not for the money.
I didn't just wake up one day and say "I think I'm going to drop everything and take an unpaid internship." It was a hard decision that my parents pushed me towards knowing that it was best for my future. I hated having no money, but everything I earned from this internship is priceless.
You can't put a price tag on knowledge because once you have it, you have it for life.